Floyd Mayweather’s befuddling retirement throws a wrench in the plans of boxing’s other biggest star, Oscar De La Hoya, since as of this writing, their September rematch is off. So where does De La Hoya go now? We’ll use the question as a jumping off point to examine both that and a number of other potentially exciting fights in the works. De La Hoya wanted to fight Mayweather, then Miguel Cotto, then call it quits. Unless Mayweather reverses course, De La Hoya needs an opponent to fill the void. Richard Schaefer, CEO of De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, said they will have an announcement next week about a big fight for De La Hoya. Well, that was fast. But who could fill the void? Two names floated for De La Hoya before: Ricky Hatton, the 140-pound consensus champ, and Manny Pacquiao, who’s making his debut at 135 lbs. this month. Both, obviously, are significantly smaller than De La Hoya, who’s spent recent years between 150 and 160 lbs. Pacquiao, in the latest edition of Ring, says the size gulf is not that great, since he regularly weighs around 150 pounds when he’s not training to fight at a specific weight and his sparring partners are usually bigger men. OK, but Pacquiao still hasn’t tested his speed and power above 130 lbs. in the prizefighting ring. We’ve already seen what happens to Hatton when he moves up to 147 lbs. He gets knocked out (by Mayweather) or nearly knocked out (by Luis Collazo). Both Hatton and Pacquiao are currently free in September, and while both have been making other plans, either would surely jump at likely eight-figure paydays. De La Hoya would be favored by anyone thinking about it objectively to beat them both, but either match-up would probably still be huge fights because of the rabid U.K. and Filipino fan base for Hatton and Pacquiao, respectively. Vernon Forrest might qualify as a “big fight.” My guess, actually, is that it’s Winky Wright who gets the call. Wright just this week said on ESPN2 that he was planning to fight in September — the same time frame of Mayweather-De La Hoya II. Opponent he mentioned that he wanted? De La Hoya. Sure, he always says that, but, combined with the fact that Wright and Golden Boy are business partners, I’m betting that Wright was being penciled in as a back-up plan. De La Hoya loves his money, certainly, but he’s also big on challenging himself. Wright would be more of a challenge than anyone else potentially on the ledger for September, since Cotto won’t be available that soon after fighting Antonio Margarito July 26 in what is expected to be a grueling war. Wright might even come in as the betting favorite. And how much crow would critics of Wright’s single-mindedness to fight De La Hoya have to eat if he actually snagged the golden ticket? I prefer my crow loaded up with ketchup, please. Now, the rest of the ledger:
- Instead of fighting De La Hoya, I’d love to see Pacquiao hang around lightweight (135 lbs.) for a while to clear up who’s the best in the very, very hot division. After some positional wrangling, it looks very much like the following fights are on deck: Joel Casamayor vs. Juan Manuel Marquez; Juan Diaz vs. Michael Katsidis; Nate Campbell vs. Joan Guzman. Read here for a summary of why those are all excellent fights, if not ideal for resolving pecking order. Pacquiao, by the way, was in talks to take on knockout artist Edwin Valero in Macau, a fight desired by a lot of hardcore fans, but Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum now says that won’t happen anytime soon for purely financial reasons. No matter. There’s hardly a bad fight that can be made in the division right now. (Worth mentioning only because of its location: Former lightweight titlist Julio Diaz is fighting David Torres at the Playboy Mansion on ESPN2 on June 25.)
- In another of boxing’s hottest divisions, 115-pounders Fernando Montiel and Cristian Mijares could yet meet this year in a battle of the top two junior bantamweights. If not, Montiel might make a fight with Nonito Donaire. As with the lightweights, there’s the fight that SHOULD be made — Casamayor-Campbell, Mijares-Montiel — and the pretty excellent consolation prizes. Montiel-Donaire is a really, really tremendous match-up between two guys who are gifted offensive specimens, and a consolation prize I would gladly embrace.
- The Bernard Hopkins retirement looks to be off. The 43-year-old future Hall of Famer who was recently separated from his light heavyweight (175 lbs.) Ring title belt by Joe Calzaghe, and is now entertaining a completely pointless rematch of his slaughter of Felix Trinidad or a far more fitting rematch against Roy Jones Jr. Despite what Golden Boy CEO Schaeffer said, neither of these fights would enhance his legacy. However, getting revenge on Jones — or trying — would be as worthwhile as a Hopkins fight could get at this point. That’s not saying much, since he’s a real eyesore in the ring, but I’ve always maintained it’s a good note on which to end both the careers of Jones and Hopkins, no worse than two of the three best fighters of the 90s and early 00s, with James Toney probably being the third. Jones and Calzaghe haven’t signed their once-anticipated fight, suggesting that Jones has returned to his old hardball negotiating tactics. His next-best money is therefore with Hopkins.
- Does it seem like Jermain Taylor’s been goofing around forever trying to mount his comeback fight after two straight losses to Kelly Pavlik, the last of which was in February? He’s flirted with dates with Jones, Trinidad, Ricardo Mayorga and Brian Vera. Now, Jeff Lacy is entering the picture. The former 168-pound belt-holder is on his own comeback trail. Both men were on the superstar path not long ago, a potential marketing angle. It also could be a pretty good scrap, pitting Taylor’s athleticism against Lacy’s power, even if Lacy seems a spent force in recent fights.
- Remember that really nice HBO card a few weeks back featuring my homie Yuriorkis Gamboa and two junior middleweight (154 lbs.) prospects, James Kirkland and Alfredo Angulo? Apparently HBO’ interested in a second dose. Angulo’s opponent is unclear, but Kirkland would be matched with Joel Julio. That’s an incredibly good bout between serious power punchers, with Kirkland having the edge in raw KO authority and Julio having the edge in experience and, probably, boxing ability. Gamboa, a 130-pound star-in-waiting as soon as he remembers to keep his hands up, would be matched with Jorge Barrios. It’s hard to imagine a more dangerous opponent. Barrios is exactly the kind of big hitter to make Gamboa pay for his fatal flaw. Gamboa’s new trainer is assuredly focusing on fixing that fatal flaw. We won’t know until his July fight with Jose Rojas if picking Barrios is insanity or a reflection of justifiable confidence in Gamboa’s talent and learning capacity.
- The light heavyweight who will take over for oldsters Hopkins, Jones, Calzaghe et all still is named Chad Dawson, and the heir apparent no longer is on course to fight other division elder Antonio Tarver. Instead, there will be a purse bid for the highly-skilled Dawson to fight the mandatory challenger to his title belt, Andrian Diaconu. Ideally, somebody other than Glen Johnson would man up and fight Dawson, but Dawson-Diaconu is probably a good little donnybrook.
- One way or the other, deserving, likable cruiserweight (200 lbs.) titlist Steve Cunningham is going to be in a meaningful fight soon. One option is Tomasz Adamek. Another is Enzo Maccarinelli.
- Irish middleweight (160 lbs.) John Duddy will have a chance to redeem himself, and all of 2008’s beleaguered Irish boxers, if his alliance with new trainer Pat Burns pays off. Duddy was last seen getting pummeled by unheralded Walid Smichet in February, a fight that Duddy won but that amounted to a Pyrrhic victory because it cost him a shot at Pavlik. His first fight back is against the unfearsome Chuck Howe, knocked out in the first round of his last fight by Joey Gilbert, who had a cup of coffee on the “Contender” TV show. It’s slated for June 28.
(Sources of information for this round-up include news releases; ESPN; Maxboxing; FightNews; BoxingTalk; and BoxingScene)